Two new solar projects get the green light

Two new solar projects get the green light

Solar panels in a grassy field

Chelsea / Unsplash

The Department of Interior approved two large new solar farms in Riverside County, California yesterday.

The Arica and Victory Pass solar projects are expected to generate up to 465 megawatts of power and provide up to 400 megawatts of battery storage — enough to power 132,000 homes. A third, more controversial project in the same area, the Oberon solar project, is likely to be approved soon.

These projects are the first on public lands to move forward under the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan. In 2016, after extensive negotiations between energy companies, tribes, environmentalists, and other groups, the Bureau of Land Management adopted the DRECP to map areas that could be used for renewable projects and those reserved for wildlife, recreation, and cultural purposes. However, critics still worry about the adverse impacts renewable energy projects can have on the surrounding environment and wildlife.

Although the Arica and Victory Pass solar farms would be built in areas designated for clean energy under the DRECP, they will disrupt sand dunes that provide a home to Mojave fringe-toed lizards and other species. The Oberon solar project is more controversial because it would destroy microphyll woodlands, but the company reached a deal with many of the environmental groups opposing the project yesterday.

“We’re always trying to balance everything,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “But, I mean, look: If we don’t move into a clean energy economy, climate change will get worse. More plants and animals will die.”

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